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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 13:4

 

 

for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

Adam Clarke Commentary

For he is the minister of God to thee for good - Here the apostle puts the character of the ruler in the strongest possible light. He is the minister of God - the office is by Divine appointment: the man who is worthy of the office will act in conformity to the will of God: and as the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears open to their cry, consequently the ruler will be the minister of God to them for good.

He beareth not the sword in vain - His power is delegated to him for the defense and encouragement of the good, and the punishment of the wicked; and he has authority to punish capitally, when the law so requires: this the term sword leads us to infer.

For he is the minister of God, a revenger - Θεοῦ διακονος εστιν εκδικος, For he is God's vindictive minister, to execute wrath; εις οργην, to inflict punishment upon the transgressors of the law; and this according to the statutes of that law; for God's civil ministers are never allowed to pronounce or inflict punishment according to their own minds or feeling, but according to the express declarations of the law.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/romans-13.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The minister of God - The “servant” of God he is appointed by God to do his will, and to execute his purposes. “To thee.” For your benefit.

For good - That is, to protect you in your rights; to vindicate your name, person, or property; and to guard your liberty, and secure to you the results of your industry. The magistrate is not appointed directly to “reward” people, but they “practically” furnish a reward by protecting and defending them, and securing to them the interests of justice.

If thou do that … - That is, if any citizen should do evil.

Be afraid - Fear the just vengeance of the laws.

For he beareth not the sword in vain - The “sword” is an instrument of punishment, as well as an emblem of war. Princes were accustomed to wear a sword as an emblem of their authority; and the “sword” was often used for the purpose of “beheading,” or otherwise punishing the guilty. The meaning of the apostle is, that he does not wear this badge of authority as an unmeaningful show, but that it will be used to execute the laws. As this is the design of the power intrusted to him, and as he will “exercise” his authority, people should be influenced “by fear” to keep the law, even if there were no better motive.

A revenger … - In Romans 12:19, vengeance is said to belong to God. Yet he “executes” his vengeance by means of subordinate agents. It belongs to him to take vengeance by direct judgments, by the plague, famine, sickness, or earthquakes; by the appointment of magistrates; or by letting loose the passions of people to prey upon each other. When a magistrate inflicts punishment on the guilty, it is to be regarded as the act of God taking vengeance “by him;” and on this principle only is it right for a judge to condemn a man to death. It is not because one man has by nature any right over the life of another, or because “society” has any right collectively which it has not as individuals; but because “God” gave life, and because he has chosen to take it away when crime is committed by the appointment of magistrates, and not by coming forth himself visibly to execute the laws. Where “human” laws fail, however, he often takes vengeance into his own hands, and by the plague, or some signal judgments, sweeps the guilty into eternity.

To execute wrath - For an explanation of the word “wrath,” see the notes at Romans 1:18. It denotes here “punishment,” or the just execution of the laws. It may be remarked that this verse is an “incidental” proof of the propriety of “capital punishment.” The sword was undoubtedly an instrument for this purpose, and the apostle mentions its use without any remark of “disapprobation.” He enjoins subjection to those who “wear the sword,” that is, to those who execute the laws “by that;” and evidently intends to speak of the magistrate “with the sword,” or in inflicting capital punishment, as having received the appointment of God. The tendency of society now is “not” to too sanguinary laws. It is rather to forget that God has doomed the murderer to death; and though humanity should be consulted in the execution of the laws, yet there is no humanity in suffering the murderer to live to infest society, and endanger many lives, in the place of his own, which was forfeited to justice. Far better that one murderer should die, than that he should be suffered to live, to imbrue his hands perhaps in the blood of many who are innocent. But the authority of God has settled this question Genesis 9:5-6, and it is neither right nor safe for a community to disregard his solemn decisions; see “Blackstone‘s Commentaries,” vol. iv. p. 8, (9.)


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/romans-13.html. 1870.

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

Forhe is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. — In this verse the civil ruler is twice denominated ‘the minister of God,’ first for good to His people, and next for the punishment of evil-doers. Civil rulers, then, as the ministers of God, ought not only to be obeyed without resistance, but with alacrity. They are not only ministers of God, but ministers for good.

This is the characteristic of magistracy in all countries. In spite of all the evils that derogate from its proper character, it promotes the good of society. But none are so much indebted to it as Christians, to each of whom it may indeed be emphatically said, it is the minister to thee for good. Were the restraints of government removed, Christians would be attacked, persecuted, or destroyed in any country. Even the persecution of the worst government would not be so bad as the persecution of the world, if freed from the restraint of law. Notwithstanding the numerous persecutions endured by Christians under the Roman emperors, they were still to them the ministers of God for good, without whose government they would probably have been exterminated. ‘The Christians to the lions!’ was the common cry of the multitude among the pagans. The Roman government afforded protection to Paul for a long period, and saved him on different occasions from suffering death by his countrymen.

Let Christians, then, in every country, instead of joining with the enemies of its established order, be thankful for the Divine ordinance of civil government, and exert themselves to maintain obedience and peace. It is of the utmost importance for them in every country to understand their duty to civil government. In this way they will most effectually commend the Gospel to the world, and remove some of the most powerful obstacles to its progress. While they show that they fear not man, where he ordains what is contrary to the commandments of God, they ought likewise to show that obedience to God, and gratitude to Him who appoints civil government for their protection, obliges them to submit to the rulers in all things temporal.

The institution of civil government is a dispensation of mercy, and its existence is so indispensable, that the moment it ceases under one form it re-establishes itself in another. The world, ever since the fall, when the dominion of one part of the human race over another was immediately introduced, Genesis 3:16, has been in such a state of corruption and depravity, that without the powerful obstacle presented by civil government to the selfish and malignant passions of men, it would be better to live among the beasts of the forest than in human society. As soon as its restraints are removed, man shows himself in his real character.

When there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes, we see in the last three chapters of the Book of Judges what were the dreadful consequences.

Some have inferred from this passage that the Apostle’s injunctions refer solely to such governors as are truly good and altogether what they ought to be. Nothing can be further from the truth. From this it would follow that the Apostle while professing to furnish an explicit rule of conduct in this matter for those whom he addressed, in reality gave them none, and that he has here laid down no clear and precise direction which could apply to Christians from that time to the present. Human governments, like everything administered by men, must always be imperfect; and as it is easy to form exaggerated ideas on this subject, no administration of any form that has ever existed would appear to come up to the imaginary standard. It would, besides, be impossible for the great body of Christians to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to their duty in this respect. This is one of those traditions by which the Scriptures are as completely made void, as by the Pharisees of old, or by modern Neologians. The rule which is here given is clear to all. It was dictated to Paul by God under one of the worst governments that ever existed, and under which the blood of the Apostle himself was shed, as if he had been a malefactor.

When the Jews were carried captive to Babylon, God by His Prophet commanded them to seek and to pray for the peace of the city. ‘Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace,’ Jeremiah 29:7. The most awful maledictions were pronounced against Babylon by the same Prophet on account of her manner of treating the Jews; but it was God Himself who, in the course of His wise and holy providence, was to execute them, by means of those instruments which He should choose. ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’ In the meantime, God made the tyrannical rulers of Babylon, whom He purposed to punish for their wickedness, His ministers for the good of His people. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, — If men will transgress the laws under which they are placed, they have reason to be afraid; and God here warns His own people, that, in such a case, they must not count upon His protection or interference to deliver them from the punishment due to those who rise up against His institution. This ought to caution Christians against identifying themselves with political associations to oppose or subvert the government of their country. When they do so they are likely to suffer for it, — even more likely to suffer than the wicked themselves. God may in the meantime pass over the sin of the latter, while He visits that of His people with chastisement. For he beareth not the sword in vain. — This implies that civil government is not a mere pageant arrayed with all the ensigns of power and vengeance against the opposer, but it also shows that the providence of God so orders it that rulers will in general be successful against the disturbers of the peace, so that evil-doers will be discovered and their plots defeated.

The most secret and solemnly sanctioned conspiracies are generally defeated and frustrated. Indeed, were not civil government an ordinance of God, it would be impossible for it to answer the end of its appointment.

This passage sanctions the use of the sword, or punishment by death, with respect to the transgressors of the fundamental laws of society. The sword is put for punishment by death of any kind. This refutes the opinion of those who think that it is sinful, nay, that it is murder, to put criminals to death. God here sanctions the practice. And if it is right in the civil magistrate to punish with death the violators of the fundamental laws of society, it is right in Christians to countenance and co-operate with the magistrate in effecting such punishments. The same truth is taught by our Lord when He says, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews.’ This intimates that worldly power may be maintained by arms, and that it is lawful to use them for this purpose. ‘If I have been an offender,’ said Paul, ‘or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die,’ Acts 25:11. Would the Apostle have in this way sanctioned this punishment, allowing its justice, if it had been contrary to the law of God? For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. — Vengeance belongeth to God. He hath, however, delegated this right, so far as concerns the affairs of this world, to the civil magistrate, who ought to punish evil-doers. For this purpose God has put the sword into his hand, and has armed him with legal authority. To suffer crime, therefore, to pass unpunished, is a dereliction of duty in the magistrate. Instead of being a duty, it is a sin to neglect avenging the laws when they are transgressed. The magistrate is here called a revenger, and is said to execute wrath. This refutes the notion that the infliction of punishment by the civil power is only for example; yet this false maxim is now very generally adopted. The Apostle here considers the sufferings inflicted as punishments, and brings not example into the account.

Example is no doubt one object of punishment, but instead of being the sole, it is not its primary object.

Dr. Carson, in his review of Dr. John Brown, gives the following division of the above four verses. ‘The first clause of the first verse contains the law of Christ, enjoining obedience to civil rulers. The rest of the verse, in two clauses, gives the ground of this injunction, or shows why God enjoins obedience. He enjoins obedience to rulers because rulers are His own appointment. An observation naturally resulting from this follows. If rulers are God’s appointment, to oppose them is to oppose the appointment of God. This enforces the duty by the guilt of disobedience.

He that opposes civil rulers, not only opposes them, but also opposes God’s ordinance. Another observation appended to this shows the consequence of disobeying this ordinance of God. They who resist shall receive to themselves damnation. The third verse commences with an observation, exhibiting a fact that proves that rulers are of God, and which anticipates an objection that was likely to occur: Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. The assertion that civil rulers, without any exception, are appointed by God, would appear strange, when it was considered that they were heathens, and tyrants, and persecutors. But heathens, and tyrants, and persecutors as they were, they are proved to be of God, by their being a terror not to good works, but to the evil. With all their wickedness, they uphold the great principles on which society is founded, and on which only it can subsist. The Christian, then, has no reason to dread them; for he does not practice the evil works which they punish, and he does the good works which they approve. This verse shows the reasonableness of the command of submission to government.

As if the Apostle had said, “Do not think this command a hard saying; for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. If you wish to avoid incurring the displeasure of rulers, do that which is good, and then, instead of being punished, you will have commendation from them.” ‘The fourth verse gives an additional reason why Christians should not think civil government a grievance, but a blessing: To the Christian he is the minister of God for good. Instead, then, of submitting with reluctance, he ought to submit with pleasure and gratitude. Indeed, civil government is more for the advantage of Christians than for that of others. They need its protection more than any other class of men. Were it not for the protection of government, Christians could not live even in the countries where there are the proudest boasts of enlargement of mind with respect to civil liberty. ‘The remainder of this verse warns the Christian what he may expect from civil rulers if he does what is evil: The minister of God bears not the sword in vain. Not only have rulers power to punish what is evil, but the providence of God takes care to make this power effectual. It is wonderful to consider how the providence of God defeats the best concerted plans of rebellion; and brings the disturbers of society under the grasp of the magistrate. Were it not that civil government is an ordinance of God, it is not possible that it could subsist.’


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Bibliography
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hal/romans-13.html. 1835.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

For he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger of wrath to him that doeth evil.

The word rendered "he" in this verse could be translated "it"; but the translators are correct in making it personal, for only a person could be spoken of as bearing the sword. The person in view, therefore, is the policeman, the legally constituted arm of human government, making the law-enforcement men of cities, states, and nations to be every whir as much "ordained of God" as any minister of the gospel. A gutless namby-pambyism has come to characterize far too many Christians of this age, who naively and stupidly suppose that police departments are dispensable, that love can just take everything, and that our own enlightened (?) age does not need the old fashioned relics of barbarism, such as policemen and jails. Let all hear it from the word of God, if they are so blind as to be unable to read it in history, that the policeman also is God's man, and that without him there is nothing. The writer once invited two New York policemen into his living room, gave them a cup of coffee, and read this chapter to them, with the same exposition as here. Their astonishment and gratitude were nearly incredible. One of them reached for the New Testament to read it himself and said, "I do wish that everyone knew this." The other spoke up and said, "Well, it would help a lot if all the clergymen in our city knew it!" We say the same. Much of the vilification, harassment, and warring against policemen in the current era has blinded some good people to the absolute indispensability of governmental authority, including an effective police establishment.

Capital punishment is clearly allowed to be a legitimate prerogative of human government, by Paul's statements here. Those states which have yielded to the naive "do-gooder-ism" of the present era by abolishing the capital penalty will eventually pay the price of their foolishness. Present-day lawgivers are not wiser than God who laid down such penalties and enforced them in the Old Testament dispensation. True, the Decalogue says, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13); but the same God who said that also said, "Thou shalt surely kill him" (Numbers 15:35). These commandments do not nullify each other, because they speak of different things. Moffatt's translation made the difference clear, thus:

Thou shalt do no murder (Exodus 20:13).

The man must certainly be put to death (Numbers 15:35).SIZE>

Moffatt took account of the essential difference in two Hebrew words, [~ratsach] and [~harag], the latter meaning "put to death," the other meaning "murder." Murder is, of course, forbidden; but the imposition of the death penalty by government is not forbidden. Humanity will never find a way to eliminate such a penalty completely, because it is the threat of death alone which enables policemen to apprehend and capture perpetrators of crime. Taking the gun out of the policeman's hands is the surest way to make all people victims of the lawless.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/romans-13.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For he is the minister of God to thee for good,.... He is a minister of God's appointing and commissioning, that acts under him, and for him, is a kind of a vicegerent of his, and in some, sense represents him; and which is another reason why men ought to be subject to him; and especially since he is appointed for their "good", natural, moral, civil, and spiritual, as Pareus observes: for natural good, for the protection of men's natural lives, which otherwise would be in continual danger from wicked men; for moral good, for the restraining of vice, and encouragement of virtue; profaneness abounds exceedingly, as the case is, but what would it do if there were no laws to forbid it, or civil magistrates to put them in execution? for civil good, for the preservation of men's properties, estates, rights, and liberties, which would be continually invaded, and made a prey of by others; and for spiritual and religious good, as many princes and magistrates have been; a sensible experience of which we have under the present government of these kingdoms, allowing us a liberty to worship God according to our consciences, none making us afraid, and is a reason why we should yield a cheerful subjection to it:

but if thou do that which is evil, be afraid: of the punishment of such evil threatened by law, and to be inflicted by the civil magistrate;

for he beareth not the sword in vain. The "sword" is an emblem of the power of life and death, the civil magistrate is invested with, and includes all sorts of punishment he has a right to inflict; and this power is not lodged in him in vain; he may and ought to make use of it at proper times, and upon proper persons:

for he is the minister of God; as is said before, he has his mission, commission, power and authority from him; and is

a revenge to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil; he is a defender of the laws, a vindicator of divine justice, an avenger of the wrongs of men; and his business is to inflict proper punishment, which is meant by wrath, upon delinquents.


Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-13.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. 6 But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a c revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.

(6) God has armed the magistrate even with an avenging sword.

(c) By whom God avenges the wicked.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/romans-13.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

he beareth not the sword in vain — that is, the symbol of the magistrate‘s authority to punish.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/romans-13.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A minister of God (τεου διακονοςtheou diakonos). General sense of διακονοςdiakonos Of course even Nero was God‘s minister “to thee (σοιsoi ethical dative) for good (εις το αγατονeis to agathon for the good).” That is the ideal, the goal.

Beareth (πορειphorei). Present active indicative of πορεωphoreō old frequentative form of περωpherō to bear, to wear.

But if thou do (εαν δε ποιηιςean de poiēis). Condition of third class, εανean and present active subjunctive of ποιεωpoieō “if thou continue to do.”

Sword (μαχαιρανmachairan). Symbol of authority as to-day policemen carry clubs or pistols. “The Emperor Trajan presented to a provincial governor on starting for his province, a dagger, with the words, ‹For me. If I deserve it, in me‘” (Vincent).

An avenger (εκδικοςekdikos). Old adjective from εκek and δικηdikē (right), “outside of penalty,” unjust, then in later Greek “exacting penalty from one,” in N.T. only here and 1 Thessalonians 4:6.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/romans-13.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Beareth ( φορεῖ )

Beareth and weareth. A frequentative form of φέρω tobear.

Sword ( μάχαιραν )

See on Revelation 6:4. Borne as the symbol of the magistrate's right to inflict capital punishment. Thus Ulpian: “They who rule whole provinces have the right of the sword (jus gladii ).” The Emperor Trajan presented to a provincial governor, on starting for his province, a dagger, with the words, “For me. If I deserve it, in me.”


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/romans-13.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

The sword — The instrument of capital punishment, which God authorizes him to inflict.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/romans-13.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

The minister of God; the servant, or instrument, employed by God. The duty of submission to the civil government, here urged in an absolute manner, is, of course, like all the other precepts of a similar character contained in the New Testament, to be understood with certain limitations and restrictions. The principal exceptions commonly made to the rule here laid down in general terms, are two:--first, that the civil authorities may be resisted when they require of the subject what is morally wrong; and, secondly, that, when their misgovernment and oppression become extreme and hopeless of reform, the community may depose them from their power. These cases are evidently not included in the view of the subject taken in this passage, as these directions plainly refer to the ordinary routine of civil government, in preserving order in the community, and administering law. The Jews were very prone to turbulence and sedition against the Roman government.


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Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/romans-13.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

4.For he is God’s minister for good, etc. Magistrates may hence learn what their vocation is, for they are not to rule for their own interest, but for the public good; nor are they endued with unbridled power, but what is restricted to the wellbeing of their subjects; in short, they are responsible to God and to men in the exercise of their power. For as they are deputed by God and do his business, they must give an account to him: and then the ministration which God has committed to them has a regard to the subjects, they are therefore debtors also to them. And private men are reminded, that it is through the divine goodness that they are defended by the sword of princes against injuries done by the wicked.

For they bear not the sword in vain, etc. It is another part of the office of magistrates, that they ought forcibly to repress the waywardness of evil men, who do not willingly suffer themselves to be governed by laws, and to inflict such punishment on their offenses as God’s judgment requires; for he expressly declares, that they are armed with the sword, not for an empty show, but that they may smite evil-doers.

And then he says, An avenger, to execute wrath, (404) etc. This is the same as if it had been said, that he is an executioner of God’s wrath; and this he shows himself to be by having the sword, which the Lord has delivered into his hand. This is a remarkable passage for the purpose of proving the right of the sword; for if the Lord, by arming the magistrate, has also committed to him the use of the sword, whenever he visits the guilty with death, by executing God’s vengeance, he obeys his commands. Contend then do they with God who think it unlawful to shed the blood of wicked men.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-13.html. 1840-57.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

THE MINISTRY OF MONARCHY

‘He is a minister of God to thee for good.’

Romans 13:4

So speaks the Apostle of the empire-monarchy of his own time, of its head, and of its officers. Minister of God: that name makes sacred the office and the authority to which it is given. If it could dignify in St. Paul’s eyes the person and officer of Claudius and Nero, under whose tyranny, pass a few years, he was to die, how much more can we ascribe it to the rule of our own Sovereign, anointed before God with Christian consecration and blessing, presiding over a system of government which draws its very substance and spirit from the Christian principles of liberty, justice and accountableness.

I. God uses the human instrument.—He takes the man, the woman, not different from their fellows, of the same flesh and blood, affected by the same joys and sorrows, pains, sicknesses, and death, and sets that one on a throne; and through such an one does His own work. That is His method, that is His way. The more visibly and undisguisedly and frankly human the ruler is, the better, then, will it be.

II. But let us go on a step.—Thank God the fashion of flattery, at least flattery of sovereigns, is largely past. But in the day of fierce light and plain speech, no thought is more widely shared, and more strongly held to-day in England, than that of the debt which England owes to the King for the high example of purity of life and court, of conscientious devotion to duty, of strong self-control and self-suppression for duty’s sake, of considerate and merciful remembrance of poverty and suffering, of strict observance of law and right. By being nobly and rightly, as well as frankly and familiarly, human, our King has been true to that method of God which makes a human life its minister.

III. Or take again the character of our King’s rule.—You will find cynics (though, thanks to the King, far fewer than there were), to carp and scoff at loyalty to the throne, and say that the Crown is a name and the people rule. In truth it is the King’s glory to show how, through him, a great people can rule itself. That is constitutional monarchy.

—Bishop E. S. Talbot.

Illustration

‘It is not the King alone who is called to be the minister of God for good, but the nation whose is the power, and all of us who make up the nation. “There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God”; and the nation is to-day such a power. For it we should pray, as we do for our King, that knowing whose minister it is, it may above all things seek God’s honour and glory.’


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Bibliography
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/romans-13.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Ver. 4. For he is the minister] It was written upon the sword of Charles the Great, Decem praeceptorum custos Carolus, Charles is Lord Keeper of the Decalogue.

For he beareth not the sword in vain] Like St Paul in a glass window, or St George (as they call him) on a sign post.

A revenger to execute wrath] But now we see how every man almost will be a pope in his own cause, depose the magistrate, at least appeal from him to himself.

Upon him that doeth evil] Whether the evil be civil or religious; Non distinguendum, ubi scriptum non distinguit. Not distinquishing where the law does not distinquich, (See Mr Burroughs’ Heartdivisions.) Note this against those that hold that magistrates have nothing to do in matters of religion. See Deuteronomy 13:6; Ezra 7:26; Daniel 3:29; 1 Peter 2:13-14. Their laws bind the conscience per concomitantiam, by way of concomitancy; because they depend upon the law of God, and are agreeable to it; which primarily and per se bindeth. As the soul is said to be in a place per concomitantiam, because it is in the body; so here.


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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-13.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Romans 13:4

I. In the chapter from which my text is taken St. Paul speaks of civil rulers as ministers of God. He does not limit or soften his language to suit the circumstances of his own time. Nero's will might be devilish; every power which he wielded was Divine. He had been appointed to rule the world which he tormented by Him who loved the world. He was the steward of His treasures even by, if he spent them in making those miserable whom they were intended to bless.

II. But St. Paul says further—"He is a minister of God to thee." A strange assertion. The emperor's existence was a testimony to the poor Christian that he belonged to the great Roman world, that he was concerned, whether he was citizen or slave, in its welfare and its misery. That was a great step in his education, in his moral and spiritual education.

III. "He is a minister of God to thee for good." St. Paul writes this to men who might, in a short time, be lighting the city as torches to cover the guilt of him who set it on fire. Well! and was he not a minister of God to them for good if he was the instrument of inflicting that torture? The Apostle could venture the daring sentiment. He knew that by some means God would prove it to be true, for that generation and for all generations. And it will be known, some day, to how many men governments the most hypocritical and accursed have been ministers of good, by leading them from trifling to earnestness, by changing them from reckless plotters into self-denying patriots, by turning their atheism or devil-worship into a grounded faith in the God of truth. As Paul believed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and the King of men, he could not help believing that all human society was organised according to the law which He expressed in words, which He embodied in His incarnation and death—"The chief of all is the servant of all." He could not doubt that every Christian ought to maintain the truth which Nero set at naught, and that if he did, it would prove itself in his case—Nero would be a minister of God for good to him.

F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 81.


Reference: Romans 13:4, Romans 13:5.—W. F. Fremantle, Church of England Pulpit, vol. i., p. 91.



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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/romans-13.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Romans 13:4. For he beareth not the sword in vain This strongly intimates the lawfulness of inflicting capital punishments; to deny which, is in effectsubverting the chief use of magistrates; though sanguinary laws should be as much as possible avoided. Bengelius reads the first clause of this verse, For he is the minister of God, for good to thee; and the last clause, For he is God's vindictive minister, for a terror to the evil-doer. See Heinsius and Wetstein.


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/romans-13.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Here the apostle subjoins a reason, why a magistrate is not to be unduly dreaded and feared by his subjects who live well, for he is by his institution the minister of God to thee for good, if thou beest a doer of that which is good.

Learn hence, that the magistrate is the minister of God for the good of them over which he is set, especially of them that are virtuous and good: he is a shield to the godly, a husband to the widow, a father to the orphan, a patron to the poor, and a refuge to the oppressed.

Observe farther, How the magistrate is set forth with the ensign of terror to evil-doers: he has a sword put into his hand by God himself, a sword to wound; not a wooden dagger to scare offenders barely; and a sword, not rusting in the scabbard, but drawn and whetted; he must show it, and strike with it upon a just occasion, and make those feel it who are not awed with the sight of it: He beareth not the sword in vain.

Observe again, Though the magistrate is said to bear a sword, yet he is never called a sword, but a shield often; a shield is for defence, a sword for destruction; intimating, that the magistrate's power is protection, not destruction; magistrates have swords, but they are shields, and not swords: they have a sword to cut off evil-doers; God help them to draw it upon atheism and blasphemy, upon vice and immorality. One hearty stroke of the magistrate's sword would stun error and vice more than a thousand sermons.

Observe lastly, The magistrate is said not to snatch or take the sword, but to bear the sword. He doth not wrest it out of the hand of another, but it is put into his hand by God himself: the commission to bear the sword is from God; the magistrate doth not hold his authority by virtue of the sword, but he holds his sword by virtue of his authority. When he draweth the sword, it is not merely backed with an arm of flesh, but with a warrant and commission signed by God himself: He beareth the sword.


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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/romans-13.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

4.] τὴν μάχαιραν, perhaps in allusion to the dagger worn by the Cæsars, which was regarded as a symbol of the power of life and death: so Tacitus, Hist. iii. 68, of Vitellius, “adsistenti Consuli exsolutum a latere pugionem, velut jus necis vitæque civium, reddebat.” Dio Cassius also, xlii. 27, mentions the wearing of τὸ ξίφος on all occasions by Antony, as a sign that he τὴν μοναρχίαν ἐνεδείκνυτο. In ancient and modern times, the sword has been carried before sovereigns. It betokens the power of capital punishment: and the reference to it here is among the many testimonies borne by Scripture against the attempt to abolish the infliction of the penalty of death for crime in Christian states.

εἰς ὀργήν seems to be inserted for the sake of parallelism with εἰς ἀγαθόν above: it betokens the character of the ἐκδίκησις,—that it issues in wrath. The ὀργή is referred to in τὴν ὀργήν, Romans 13:5.


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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/romans-13.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 13:4. θεοῦἀγαθόν] Establishment of the preceding thought—that the well-doer has not to fear the magistrate, but to expect praise from him—by indicating the relation of the magistracy to God, whose servant ( διάκονος, feminine, as in Romans 16:1; Dem. 762. 4, and frequently) it is, and to the subjects, for whose benefit (defence, protection, blessing) it is so. The σοί is the ethical relation of the θεοῦ διάκον. ἐστι, and εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν adds the more precise definition.

οὐ γὰρ εἰκῆ] for not without corresponding reason (frequently so in classical Greek), but in order actually to use it, should the case require.

τὴν μάχαιρ. φορεῖ] What is meant is not the dagger, which the Roman emperors and the governing officials next to them were accustomed to wear as the token of their jus vitae et necis (Aurel. Vict. 13; Grotius and Wetstein in loc.); for μάχαιρα, although denoting dagger = παραξιφός in the classics (see Spitzner on Hom. Il. xviii. 597; Duncan, Lex. ed. Rost, p. 715), means in the N. T. always sword, viii. 35, according to Xen. r. eq. xii. 11 (but comp. Krüger, Xen. Anab. i. 8. 7), differing by its curved form from the straight ξίφος; and also among the Greeks the bearing of the sword (Philostr. Vit. Ap. vii. 16) is expressly used to represent that power of the magistrates. They bore it themselves, and in solemn processions it was borne before them. See Wolf, Cur. On the distinction between φορέω (the continued habit of bearing) and φέρω, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 585.

θεοῦ γὰρ διάκ. κ. τ. λ.] ground assigned for the assurance οὐκ εἰκῆ τ. μ. φ., in which the previously expressed proposition is repeated with emphasis, and now its penal reference is appended.

ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργὴν κ. τ. λ.] avenging (1 Thessalonians 4:6; Wisdom of Solomon 12:12; Sirach 30:6; Herodian, vii. 4. 10; Aristaenet. i. 27) in behalf of wrath (for the execution of wrath) for him who does evil. This dative of reference is neither dependent on ἐστίν, the position of which is here different from the previous one (in opposition to Hofmann), nor on εἰς ὀργήν (Flatt); it belongs to ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργ. εἰς ὀργήν is not “superfluous and cumbrous” (de Wette), but strengthens the idea.

We may add that our passage proves (comp. Acts 25:11) that the abolition of the right of capital punishment deprives the magistracy of a power which is not merely given to it in the O. T., but is also decisively confirmed in the N. T., and which it (herein lies the sacred limitation and responsibility of this power) possesses as God’s minister; on which account its application is to be upheld as a principle with reference to those cases in law, where the actual satisfaction of the divine Nemesis absolutely demands it, while at the same time the right of pardon is still to be kept open for all concrete cases. The character of being unchristian, of barbarism, etc., does not adhere to the right itself, but to its abuse in legislation and practice.


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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/romans-13.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Romans 13:4. θεοῦ γὰρ, for of God) There is here an Anaphora or repetition of the same word at the beginning of different clauses. There is a trace of Divine providence in this, that even wicked men, appointed to the magistracy, give their support to what is good, and visit evil with punishment.(136)σοι, to thee) This to thee is used with great elegance respecting him, that doeth well, but τῷ is used indefinitely respecting the evil-doer.— εἰς) so far as concerns what is good, what is for your advantage.— τὸ κακὸν, evil) Good is marked as in direct antithesis to this evil in Romans 13:3, not in Romans 13:4.— φορεῖ, wieldeth [beareth]), not merely φέρει, carries: [gestat, not gerit; wields] according to Divine appointment.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/romans-13.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

For he is the minister of God to thee for good: q.d. That is the end of his office, and for this reason God hath invested him with his authority. The Scripture applieth the same title to him that preacheth the word, and to him that beareth the sword; both are God’s ministers, and there is one common end of their ministry, which is the good and welfare of mankind.

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: this is the reason why he that trangresseth the moral law of God, or the wholesome laws of the country where he lives, should be afraid of the magistrate, because

he beareth not the sword in vain. The sword is figuratively put for power and authority: he alludes to the custom of princes, who had certain officers going before them, bearing the ensigns of their authority: q.d. The magistrate hath not his authority for nothing, or for no purpose; but that he may punish the evil, as well as defend the good.

For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil: here is another reason why evil-doers (as before) should be afraid of the magistrate; or rather, the same reason in other and plainer words; because he is God’s officer to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil; he is in God’s room upon earth, and doth the work which primarily belongeth unto him: see Romans 12:19. By wrath, here, understand punishment: so in Luke 21:23 Romans 2:8. The word execute is not in the text, but aptly enough supplied by our translators.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/romans-13.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

He is the minister of God; the magistrate is His servant.

To thee for good; made a ruler, not for his own good, but the good of the people whose interests he is bound to promote.

Not the sword in vain; the sword is an instrument of punishment, and as such, an emblem in the hand of the magistrate, of rightful authority, in case men maliciously put to death their fellow-men, to punish them even with death. Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:16-21; Numbers 35:30-31.

To execute wrath; not the wrath of the magistrate or of the government merely, but the wrath of God against evil-doers. As the object for which God established and upholds government is the highest good of the governed, it should be so constructed and administered as will best accomplish this end.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/romans-13.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

4. ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργὴν. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 : for the execution of wrath; the wrath of offended authority.


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"Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/romans-13.html. 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. Minister of God—Though as pagan, antichristian, or worldly, the government is, according to Daniel, a beast, yet as a conservator of society required by the divinely established laws of human nature the governor is the minister of God.

The sword—The ensign of sovereignty. It is the emblem also of death. And as it is placed by God in the hands of the sovereign as the minister of God, so to him is delegated from God the power over life and death in order to secure the just peace of society. The sword is authorized by God to the government, to be used not only in just execution upon the domestic criminal, but in just war against a foreign foe. For one of these rights involves the other. The execution of the criminal is a lesser war upon a single foe. The difference is a difference only in numbers.

A revenger… doeth evil—According to the apostle the ruler is of God only as a revenger upon him that doeth evil. He is not a minister of God when he is the executioner of the good.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-13.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

God will use government, good and bad, to bring the submissive Christian what is good from His perspective (cf. Romans 8:28). Christians who are not submissive should fear because government has received its power to punish evildoers from God.


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/romans-13.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 13:4. For he is God’s minister to thee for good. This is a purpose for which civil government was ordained of God (the word ‘God’s’ is in emphatic position). By the fulfilment of this purpose the relative excellence of forms of government may be determined. It is an empirical test, and does not assume that there is a jure divino form. The verse presents a confirmation of Romans 13:3 : Dost thou then wish,’ etc.

Be afraid; for he weareth not the sword in vain. ‘Weareth’ points to the habitual bearing; ‘the sword;’ is not the dagger of the emperor and his prefect but the curved sword of the provincial Roman magistrates, which moreover was borne before them in public processions as a symbol of their right to punish with death.

An avenger for wrath, etc. The magistrate is God’s minister, not only for good, but in this respect also; he is ‘an avenger for wrath,’ it is his office to punish evil, to vindicate those who have been wronged (comp. Luke 18:3-8), for the execution of the Divine wrath, which is here named to strengthen the force of the argument. The theory of civil penalty here involved includes more than efforts to restrain and reform the criminal. The Apostle undoubtedly here asserts the right of capital punishment. He is describing an ideal of civil government, and this right has been and will be abused, to the extent that the state falls below this ideal. But the right remains; fully justified by the theory of punishment here advanced, and by the necessities of self-preservation on the part of society represented by the punishing power. Moreover, the right to punish also implies the right to pardon; and the measure of the right (i.e., the conformity to the ideal here presented) will be also the measure of the sense of responsibility, both as to the punishing and pardoning power. The usual objections to capital punishment misapprehend both the nature of punishment in general, and the divine authority in civil government.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/romans-13.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Romans 13:4. θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν σοὶ εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν. διάκονός is feminine agreeing with ἐξουσία, which is “almost personified” (Sanday and Headlam). The σοὶ is not immediately dependent on διάκονός, as if the State were conceived as directly serving the person; the State serves God, with good in view as the end to be secured by its ministry, viz., the maintenance of the moral order in society; and this situation is one the benefit of which redounds to the individual. ἐὰν δὲ τὸ κακὸν ποιῇς, φοβοῦ: only when the individual does that which is contrary to the end set before the State by God—commits τὸ κακὸν, which frustrates τὸ ἀγαθὸν—need he fear: but then he must fear. οὐ γὰρ εἰκῇ: for not for nothing, but for serious use, does the ruler wear the sword. For εἰκῇ cf. 1 Corinthians 15:2, Galatians 3:4. φορεῖ is wear, rather than bear: the sword was carried habitually, if not by, then before the higher magistrates, and symbolised the power of life and death which they had in their hands. “The Apostle in this passage,” says Gifford, “expressly vindicates the right of capital punishment as divinely entrusted to the magistrate”. But “expressly” is perhaps too much, and Paul could not deliberately vindicate what no one had assailed. He did, indeed, on a memorable occasion (later than this) express his readiness to die if his life had been forfeited to the law (Acts 25:11); but to know that if an individual sets himself to subvert the moral order of the world, its representatives can proceed to extremities against him (on the ground, apparently, that it, as of God’s institution, is of priceless value to mankind, whereas he in his opposition to it is of no moral worth at all) is not to vindicate capital punishment as it exists in the law or practice of any given society. When the words θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν are repeated, it is the punitive ministry of the magistrate which is alone in view. ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργὴν: an avenger for wrath. ὀργὴ in the N.T. almost always (as here) means the wrath of God. It occurs eleven times in Romans: always so. The exceptions are Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8, 1 Timothy 2:8, James 1:19 f. τῷ τὸ κακὸν πράσσοντι = to him who works at evil. The process is presented in πράσσειν rather than the result. Cf. Romans 1:32.


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-13.html. 1897-1910.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Romans 13:4 for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.

"For he"-"For it" (NASV), i.e. civil government.

"minister"-attendant or servant. This is how we need to view the government that we are under. Government exists to maintain law and order, to punish the evil-doer, to protect the innocent, etc..., and in so doing it serves the purpose of God.

"to thee for good"-the state exists for our benefit! It builds roads, maintains order, sets standards of quality in meats, dairy products, etc...it protects the rights of the innocent. It keeps us from being invaded by another power. Many regulations exist not because someone is trying to pry into our lives, but because of ABUSES! Every government regulation and law admits the fact that man is STILL A SINNER. Christians benefit greatly from government. Roads and avenues of communication help the spread of the gospel, a common currency enables preachers to be supported and the needy to be relieved. We can own a place of worship and worship God publicly. And the government even patrols the neighborhood in the attempt to help us avoid vandalism.

"but if thou do what which is evil"-Christians could act in such a way as to violate the laws of the land. Christians can fall away from the faith. (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 4:15)

"be afraid"-"you have reason to be alarmed" (Phi)

"It would seem that the government"s primary purpose (or at least the one Paul has in mind here) is to cause fear in relation to evil behavior...a government whose legal and judicial system is such that it strikes fear in the heart of the potential criminal and deter"s his evil action is fulfilling its God-given purpose."

"for he beareth"-present active indicative, to bear, wear. (Robertson p. 408)

"the sword"-"Borne as the symbol of the magistrate"s right to inflict capital punishment." (Vincent p. 164) "Paul is writing to the Romans as a Roman citizen, hence he uses "sword", the Roman short sword, which was used for executing citizens." (Lenski p. 792) "Symbol of authority as to-day policemen carry clubs or pistols." (Robertson p. 408)

"in vain"-"for nothing" (NASV); "for the sword they carry is not without meaning" (TCNT); "for they do not carry swords for nothing" (Gspd). "For the sword as the symbol of power to punish, is not given to a ruler in vain." (Erdman p. 151)

Points to Note:

1. Paul clearly taught that the civil authorities have the God-given right to execute the criminal. In fact, Paul wouldn"t of made an exception to himself, if he had been convicted of a capital crime. (Acts 25:11 "If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die..")

2. Both these sections of Scripture admits the existence of a category of crimes that are "worthy of death", where the sword needs to be used.

3. God says that the evil-doer should suffer (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:15). Never does God say, "Keep the law-breaker from suffering."

4. Protesting the execution of a convicted criminal is not a practice that Christians should be involved in. In fact, it is anti-Christian and anti-God. It is protesting, resisting (), God"s will for how civil government is to operate.

5. Christians should never vote to take the "sword" out of the hands of God"s minister. A vote against the death penalty is a vote against God.

"an avenger of wrath"-"an avenger who brings wrath" (NASV). "Carrying justice out, i.e. a punisher" (Strong). "Exacting penalty from one" (Robertson p. 408) "An avenger appointed to inflict wrath" (McGarvey p. 511)

"An avenger of wrath is an EXPLANATION of "he is a minister of God". Note it doesn"t say: "For he is a minister of God and an avenger for wrath." Now the government of any country has more than one reason to exist. They build roads, schools, medical services and on and on." (McGuiggan p. 383)

"to him that doeth evil"-Civil government serves God, when it (among other things), punishes the law-breaker. God has given government the "right" to execute some of His wrath. When the child molester is put to death, some of God"s wrath has been witnessed. God is in agreement with the execution.

Points to Note:

1. While the individual is forbidden to execute vengeance (Romans 12:19); civil government has been given the right to. Therefore, the vengeance that Christians need to leave room for (12:19), includes the "wrath" that the civil authorities will inflict.

2. This is why mob action, vigilantes and lynching are sinful, but a state execution isn"t.

3. Civil government isn"t under all the same laws that the individual is. See Matthew 5:39; Luke 17:3-4. I am to forgive the person that sincerely repents of killing a loved one, and yet, the state still has the right to execute, even a repentant murderer. (1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:15)

4. If God has given the state the right to execute some of His wrath, then those that work for the state (police-officers, district attorney"s, detectives, prison guards, and military personnel), do not sin when they are involved in "avenging wrath" upon the evil-doer. In fact, they are serving the purposes of God.

"Some people think it is more noble or more "Christian" not to report crime (even against oneself), or to try to abolish punishment altogether as a barbaric relic. But such decisions are misinformed and are a violation of justice (and this context)."

Christians need to learn: We aren"t doing God any favors by trying to remove the death penalty; by showing disrespect to police-officers; by belittling the government; by cheating on our taxes; by voting for individuals who are soft on crime, and who see the criminal as a victim, rather than an evil-doer who is victimizing others.

In view of some recent jury verdicts, many people in our society need to read this Chapter


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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/romans-13.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

the = a.

minister. App-190.

beareth = weareth. Greek. phoreo. Elsewhere, Matthew 11:8. John 19:5. 1 Corinthians 15:49, 1 Corinthians 15:49. James 2:3

revenger = avenger. Greek. ekdikos. Only here and 1 Thessalonians 4:6.

to execute = for. App-104.

upon him = to the one.

doeth = practiseth. Greek. prasso.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/romans-13.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword - the official symbol of the authority to punish which is inherent in the magistrate's office,

In vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger ('avenger') to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-13.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

For he is God's servant. The ruler is to guard order and preserve peace. In this he is God's servant. But if you do evil. In just a few years, Jewish armed terrorists rebelled against the Roman government, and it all ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/romans-13.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) The sword.—Not apparently the dagger worn by the Roman emperors, but, in a strict sense, “the sword.” “To bear the sword” seems to be a recognised Greek phrase to express the power of the magistrates. It was carried before them in processions, and on other important occasions.

It is clear from this passage that capital punishment is sanctioned by Scripture. At the same time its abolition is not excluded, as the abolition of slavery was not excluded, if the gradual development of Christian principle should seem to demand it. Whether or not capital punishment ought to be abolished, is a question for jurists, publicists, and statesmen. The theologian, as such, has no decision to give either way.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/romans-13.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
he is
6; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 19:6; Psalms 82:2-4; Proverbs 24:23,24; 31:8,9; Ecclesiastes 8:2-5; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 5:28; Ezekiel 22:27; Micah 3:1-4,9
be
Proverbs 16:14; 20:2,8,26
revenger
12:19; Numbers 35:19-27; Joshua 20:5,9; Ezekiel 25:14

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/romans-13.html.

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

For he is the minister of God to thee for good, etc. This whole verse is but an amplification of the preceding. ‘Government is a benevolent institution of God, designed for the benefit of men; and, therefore, should be respected and obeyed. As it has, however, the rightful authority to punish, it is to be feared by those that do evil.' For good, i.e. to secure or promote your welfare. Magistrates or rulers are not appointed for their own honor or advantage, but for the benefit of society, and, therefore, while those in subjection are on this account to obey them, they themselves are taught, what those in power are so apt to forget, that they are the servants of the people as well as the servants of God, and that the welfare of society is the only legitimate object which they as rulers are at liberty to pursue.

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath ( εἰς ὀργήν, i.e. for the purpose of punishment) upon him that doeth evil. As one part of the design of government is to protect the good, so the other is to punish the wicked. The existence of this delegated authority is, therefore, a reason why men should abstain from the commission of evil. He beareth not the sword in vain, i.e. it is not in vain that he is in vested with authority to punish. The reference is not to the dagger worn by the Roman emperors as a sign of office, μάχαιρα in the New Testament always means sword, which of old was the symbol of authority, and specially of the right of life and death. As the common method of inflicting capital punishment was by decapitation with a sword, that instrument is mentioned as the symbol of the right of punishment, and, as many infer from this passage, of the right of capital punishment. "Insignis locus ad jus gladii comprobandum; nam si Dominus magistratum armando gladii quoque usum illi mandavit, quoties sontes capitali poena vindicat, exercendo Dei ultionem, ejus mandatis obsequitur. Contendunt igitur cum Deo qui sanguinem nocentium hominum effundi nefas esse putant." — Calvin.


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Bibliography
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/romans-13.html.

: for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.

When we think about the government, we do not usually view it as a "minister of God" (the word from which minister is translated is diakonos, deacon). For a full study of minister, see the introductory information in the commentary on 1 Timothy 3:8. According to Paul, governments are ministers, and he made this point in the present tense ("is"). Governments are to be servants (this suggests tyranny is wrong), and they should continually help people and do the job God intends for them to do. As ministers, they should consistently be "good" to the people who are law-abiding citizens and put fear into those who commit crimes.

A second description of governments is found in verse7. While many translations again use the word minister in verse7 , it is a different word (leitourgos). Using two separate terms, and especially leitourgos in verse7 , provides a death blow to the idea that God should have no part in a nation's laws, policies, or anything else. Were it not for God, nations and their governments would not exist. Governments may not realize it, but in verses4,7 Paul claimed a partnership between God and government. Many today see a strong contrast between God and government, but Paul did not see the two as being complete opposites. There is a connection, but this alliance does not, as noted above, mean having something like a state sponsored church. Christians must affirm their President, Senators, Congressmen, Court Justices, and all other officials are servants (ministers) of God. Those who serve in these positions may not be Christians or even religious, but they are part of the process God has chosen to use in controlling nations and societies. When Christians realize these points they have an answer as to whether or not a Christian may serve in government. If governments are truly servants of God, and this is exactly what the opening verses in this chapter teach, how can a Christian sin or be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she is serving or employed by this God ordained institution?

A sound argument for a Christian being part of the military and engaging in armed conflict may be formed in this manner: (1) Governments have been ordained by God ( Romans 13:1-4). (2) Christians must live under the control of their government and be obedient to its laws and statutes ( Romans 13:1-2; Romans 13:5). (3) These principles are illustrated by taxes ( Romans 13:6). Governments levy them and Christians pay them. (4) Governments also "bear the sword" ( Romans 13:4). They are entitled to punish those who do wrong as well as have an army. (5) Since a government is authorized to have such a force and Christians are to live under the laws of their government, a Christian may help a government carry out the execution of wrong doers, be involved in the confinement of criminals, or be part of a government's military. There are Christians who cannot conscientiously serve in this manner and this plus other matters related to the conscience are found in the next chapter.

In addition to saying that civil government is a minister, Paul revealed how a government is supposed to minister. A government is to "bear the sword" (verse4). It is essential to notice that the text does not say, "a minister and an avenger for wrath." The text says, "a minister, an avenger for wrath." A government is supposed to serve its citizens as well as God. Part of this service includes punishing those who commit crimes.

There are many ways to punish criminals. One of these ways is described by the word "sword" (machaira), a word "generally used for the weapon of close combat in the first century. Josephus, who had a command for a time in the Roman army in Galilee, mentions it as the weapon of death worn at the side of the soldier" (Owen, p97). The sword was an instrument of death, and because Paul used this to illustrate his point, he believed in capital punishment. As MacArthur (p45) observed, those in Paul's day didn't use the sword to spank or fine people. Neither was the sword a decorative accessory for a military uniform. Vine () added, "A sword was actually worn by emperors and magistrates, as an emblem for their power of life and death; hence the metaphorical use of the phrase here."

The sword in Romans 13:1-14 is not "vain" (for nothing). Paul informed his readers that the government has the right to use the sword (an instrument of death). This right exists because governments are to punish those who commit crimes. When crimes warrant the death penalty (and some do), capital punishment is allowed and is to be practiced. Compare Acts 25:6-11 and Genesis 9:6.

Throughout time, some have objected to capital punishment. One objection to this practice (though objections are hard to understand in light of this chapter) has been based upon the passages that teach Christians to love and forgive all people. Some have asked, "How can capital punishment for a crime be harmonized with Christian love and forgiveness?"

Those who ask this question should be asked why we should allow civil authority to administer any type of punishment. If love and forgiveness negate capital punishment, how can lesser forms of punishment be justified? If love and forgiveness nullify one form of punishment, love and forgiveness negate all forms of punishment.

People familiar with Scripture know that love and forgiveness do not remove the consequences of sin. The person who is guilty of fornication and infected with a sexually transmitted disease can be forgiven for the sin, but he or she will still bear the consequences for the wrong. It should also be observed that God (who is full of love and forgiveness) will sentence many people to an eternal hell. The qualities of love and forgiveness neither conflict with nor negate punishment.

As punishment options are considered, one common suggestion is incarceration. Why not imprison people instead of use the sword? No one believes in killing every person who commits a crime. That kind of logic would end up executing people who get traffic tickets. We may not always agree on which crimes deserve death and which merit lengthy or life prison sentences, but there are certainly cases where people deserve the death penalty. As noted above from Genesis 9:6 and Acts 25:6-11, both testaments speak of capital punishment. If it be argued by Christians that capital punishment removes the chance of repentance, it may be said (1) death eventually comes to all and all lose the chance to repent. Why should a person convicted of a crime and sentenced to death be given "more time" to repent and be saved? (2) Before a criminal is executed (at least in the United States), several years pass. There are inmates who die on death row. These years provide plenty of time for a convicted man or woman to study the Scriptures and seek salvation. (3) Capital punishment is a deterrent against crime-a needed deterrent, and it works if it is done in a reasonable amount of time ( Ecclesiastes 8:11).

In the fourth verse of this chapter we have a negative reason for obeying the government (we obey because of fear). Though some are opposed to using fear as an incentive for obedience, fear is a tool to discourage crime and sin. It is an aid that can help governments fulfill God's will.

The word avenger (ekdikos) "denotes one who deals justice. It is used of God in 1 Thessalonians 4:6" (Vine, 1:420). Human rulers are supposed to dispense justice, and some of this justice is capital punishment.


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Bibliography
Price, Brad "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bpc/romans-13.html.

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